Preparing the Desktop

Here I am again, working in the dining room on the black walnut desk. I must say, I'm sort of getting used to all the beautiful sunshine up here. The big glue-up mentioned in last week's post is all done. It went very smoothly with a little help from my glue-up buddy, Carol. Below you get a good view of the curved stretcher at the wide end of the desk. Again, the continuous blocking is there to make sure that the stretcher doesn't bend when clamping it to the legs.

While that glue cures, I've returned to the desktop planks. They've continued to move a bit over the summer, but seem to have stabilized and are ready for final flattening. I plan to send these two planks through a thickness sanding machine over at Forest Products Supply, but since neither side is flat, I'll be hot melt gluing a sheet of 1/4" MDF to one side. The MDF is flat, and while laying on the flat bench, I put some dabs of glue on the plank and quickly set it on the MDF.

Each dab of glue, at about 8" on center in both directions, forms a shim the exact thickness needed to support the plank in the sander. Below you can see the plank coming out of the machine. Just a couple more passes should do it.

With one side flat, I remove the MDF and glue, and send it through again to flatten the other side.

All along, the strategy has been to maximize the thickness available in the chosen plank. I knew that I needed at least 7/8" of thickness to get the effect that my client and I were looking for, but I was ideally hoping to achieve a 1 1/8" total thickness. Well, with all the movement undertaken by the planks, I was, in the end, able to secure a 1" thickness. This will work well.

After the glue cured sufficiently on the legs, I then glued up the lap joints for attaching the cross beams to the long side stretchers.

This self-pruned branch knot in the desktop surface became partially loosened in the sanding process, but luckily it didn't get lost in the dust collector. The end of the branch is within 1/16" of the bottom of the plank, so it is still not visible from below.

I was able to clean out all the bark inclusions and then epoxy glue the knot back into place. My trusty section of railroad track comes in handy to hold it down in position while the glue cures.

Meanwhile, back in the dining room, it's time to hand plane the top surfaces of the end stretchers and the cross beams so that they're all in the same plane and ready to receive the flat top.

I'll be holding the top down to the stretchers and cross beams with shop made brass brackets. Here I'm scribing one of the brackets to set it into a mortise in a cross beam.

First the mortises are routed out to the proper depth. I'll come back next week to clean up the mortises with a chisel for the final fit of the brackets.

A glimpse of work ahead: I've been studying various layouts of butterfly joints to be set into the top to stabilize the large open flaws. Below you can see me using some green paper cutouts as a mockup of one possibility. Because the open flaws are so long and so curved, there is a possibility for these sections of the planks to tilt up or down with changes in humidity. Adding butterflies on both the top and bottom of these flawed areas will minimize the movement and keep the surfaces as flush as possible through the changing of the seasons.

Well, I'd better get a good night's sleep, there is much work ahead.

Hej då and happy shavings!

Craig